NEW CASTLE — The cheers or tears came quickly.
Within seconds of the music stopping and the shouts turning to silence, the tumblers standing still knew — even if their suspicions weren’t confirmed for hours later Saturday — whether they’d earned the title they were chasing.
Their white sneakers turned into mini trampolines as they celebrated, their high ponytails bouncing with every motion.
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If they’d stuck every move, touched every toe and whooped with joy at the close of their routine, then maybe.
But any stumble, misstep or fall shone clear on their faces, too, and amidst the soft claps and nods from the crowd post performance, they shuffled off the mat less than enthusiastically.
The Greenfield-Central and New Palestine cheer squads felt that disappointment after taking their turn on the gym floor at the New Castle Chrysler Fieldhouse during the 2017 varsity high school cheerleading state finals.
After great success in last year’s competition — when the Cougars placed first in their division in 2016 with the Dragons as their runner-up — both squads left the mat this weekend knowing their performances weren’t as stellar as they had been.
Greenfield-Central finished in fourth place in the Varsity B division where they competed against seven other teams. They placed behind Jasper and Bishop Dwenger, who took second and third place, respectively. Pendleton Heights was named the state champion in the division.
New Palestine took home a participation trophy for its effort in the Varsity Coed Division, coming in at the bottom on their eight-team division. Carmel was named the state champion, with Carroll and New Albany coming in second and third, respectively.
Greenfield-Central coach Laken Rosing said the team realized pretty quickly they weren’t going to walk away with back-to-back championships.
In 2016, they executed a perfect routine, resulting in zero deductions from the judges, Rosing said. But this year, the team had a few slips that they knew immediately were going to keep them from taking home the night’s biggest trophy.
But they had a lot to be proud of, Rosing said. They held their own in one of the state’s hardest competition categories during their third consecutive appearance in the state finals.
The team’s 2016 state championship was in the Varsity Coed division and was the school’s first in more than a decade. Before that, they clinched the coed division championship in 2004 and claimed the Varsity Large title in 2005.
The girls who make up the team now are helping Greenfield-Central build up the school’s cheerleading program, Rosing said; one that will one day be recognized statewide as a powerhouse, a dynasty. Creating that legacy of success has always been part of their season goals, and they’ve accomplished that this year, she said.
“We have nothing to hang our heads about,” she said.
New Palestine High School, too, left New Castle feeling the sting of disappointment.
“We did not have our best day,” coach Ally Jamerson said.
After being named the state runner-up in the Varsity Coed division in 2016, the Dragons walked away with a participating trophy in the same category following this year’s contest.
After months of practicing and preparing, it’s almost funny how it all comes down to just 2½ minutes on one afternoon, Jamerson said.
The Dragons’ squad, like all the other teams that competed in Saturday’s finals, spend countless hours in the gym, trying to perfect every step, flip and lift. And then they get high-pressure seconds at the state finals to show the judges what they can do.
If it all comes together, it makes victory a bit sweeter, Jamerson said. If it doesn’t, it’s all the more sour, she said.
For the Dragons, it just didn’t stick this time around.
“But that’s cheerleading. That’s the sport we’re in,” Jamerson said. “You only get two-and-a-half minutes to show what you can do, and its either good or it’s not.”